Haiti

Haiti

Haiti requires immediate deployment of forces to counter the gang violence that is at an alarming rate. Owing to its deteriorating security condition the country is at the center of international attention, said the top UN envoy for Haiti, Maria Isabel Salvador. The areas in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and outside the city, that were previously considered safe are now at high risk of gang violence and the police force is unable to handle the criminality in these areas.

Simultaneously, half of the population of Haiti needs basic humanitarian aid amidst the continuing epidemic of cholera that has created almost 40,000 suspected cases since October. She further apprised that more delay in tackling the ‘unprecedented insecurity’ would bring chaos to the whole region.

Time is of the essence, and the Haitian people deserve your urgent action. If not supported, the vicious circle of violence, political, social, and economic crisis, in which the people struggle every day, will continue to turn. Breaking this daunting circle must not be delayed. The Haitian people cannot wait. We need to act now,” she said. Ms. Salvador was designated in March and she began work this month. In the first week of her joining she met with many civil society representatives such as women’s groups, and national and senior government officials. 

“During my initial exchanges and interactions, I observed that a path for Haitians to engage in dialogue toward restoring democratic institutions in the country has been charted. However, the general sentiment is that it will be difficult to move forward without effectively addressing rampant insecurity,” she said. 

The newly appointed envoy visits some of the streets of the capital, saying “I felt the tension and recognized the fear Haitians experience every day.” She told the ambassador that the awful violence in gang-ridden areas, including sexual abuse, particularly against women and girls, is symptomatic of the horror that afflicts most of Haiti’s population.

As per the data collected by the national police of Haiti and by BINUH, 1647 criminal occurrences were recorded in the first quarter of 2022, including homicides, rapes, kidnappings, and lynching. These criminal incidents recorded more than doubled in the same period of 2023, and last month this rate went to the highest, said Salvador.

Due to the absence of a police force in the capital, some residents began to seize control. According to the current data, this week more than 13 suspected gang members were killed by a group of civilians. 

However, the government has continued to invest in Haitian National Police Force as the police force is undermanned and inadequate to counter criminality and violence, she said. 

Due to deaths, discharges, and increasing rate of resignations of the police force the operational strength of it reduced from 14772 to 13200 personnel, from which only 9000 are performing police tasks. Moreover, barely 3500 policemen are available nationwide for public duty at any time. In the meantime, the recruitment process of the police force is currently halted due to deteriorating security and logistical constraints, said Salvador.

“I would like to emphasize the urgent need for the deployment, authorized by the Security Council, of an international specialized force, as articulated by the Secretary-General in his letter dated 8 October 2022. We need to find innovative ways to define the force to support the Haitian National Police,” she said.

Due to the terrible armed gang violence, Haitians have been gone through one of the worst human rights crises for decades. People who are living near the gang control areas are at higher risk of human rights abuses. Data collected by BINUH shows that gangs use sexual violence, including gang rape, to inflict pain and threaten people who are living in their rivals’ control areas. Gangs are also involved in other forms of sexual violence such as sexual exploitation against women and girls who are living in areas that are under gangs’ influence, she said.

Children are victims of most heinous crimes including kidnapping and killing. According to crime statistics from the previous three months, children have been shot while attending courses or abducted while being dropped off. Also, many schools closed during the last year due to violence and extortions by gangs. Although schools reopened in early 2023, many students have not returned because of the violence committed near the schools or the inability of their parents to pay their fees.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Executive Director, Ghada Waly, told the council that another reason for violence and insecurity in Haiti is the illegal supply of firearms and drugs.  Last month, an agency report was published, and according to this highly sophisticated and sterling firearms and bullets are being trafficked through land, air, and sea passing into the country due to poor control of maritime and border surveillance. 

“Heavily armed criminal gangs are targeting critical infrastructure such as ports, grain storage, customs offices, police stations, court houses, prisons, businesses and neighborhoods. They have also gained control of major highways and roads providing access to the capital,” she said.  Moreover, the poor control of law enforcement and border security makes Haiti a favorite hub for shipping cocaine and cannabis to the United States, the Dominican Republic, and Western Europe.  “The international community and invested partners need to urgently develop and support large-scale comprehensive actions to assist law enforcement and border management, to prevent illicit flows and help stabilize the situation,” she said. 

Ms Waly stated that the main agenda of the Council is stressing the importance of building up the Haitian National Police which mainly focuses on borders, drugs, and firearms. In order to combat corruption and money laundering, she also underlined the significance of increasing investment in community police and criminal justice reform. “Black markets are relying on corruption and patronage networks to thrive, with a complex web of public and private actors implicated in trafficking, while corruption in the criminal justice sector leads to impunity,” she said.  “The conditions for a political process leading to peace can only be achieved when Haiti has the institutions and capacities capable of meeting these challenges.”

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